This story has undergone so many rewrites, including several drafts in first-person, then a couple in third-person, on its way now to being split into two and more detailed in the protagonist’s formative years. But, here’s a small piece of this crazy puzzle of organized crime that may someday turn out to be my opus, should I ever be granted the opportunity to truly focus on it.
The next day, they drove into East Cleveland. Binky and Cliff were waiting outside a church on Scovill and East 55th Street. Mike had left the back seat open so they could sit with him. Dante sat in the front because he had already been doing business with these guys.
Binky sent them to a tattered apartment complex down Scovill where they were followed by some unfriendly eyes. “I got some boys down here for you to meet,” he told Mike. “They be the guys out here you wanna talk to.”
They met with five black guys in a rusty blue Buick Sedan parked behind the back row of buildings. The driver–squinty-eyed, bald, and smoking a fat cigar–peeped them hard. A skinny-looking fella with braids and gold teeth leaned forward in the passenger seat to get a look at them. He grinned when he laid his eyes on Binky.
“Is that you, Binky?”
“Yeah, man. Who you think it is?”
Binky then turned to Mike and said, “That’s Trevor. He’s a boss motherfucker so tread lightly with him. The driver is called DiMaggio–like the ball player–because we call him the clipper. If you know what I mean by that.”
Mike nodded. “Someone needs to vanish and you call him.”
“Exactly. He’ll show up without anybody knowing it, peel a niggaz cap, and get out like nothing happened.”
“Sounds like my kind of guy.”
Trevor called across the cars. “So, ya’ll whispering-ass motherfuckers wanna see what you got down here?”
“East Cleveland and Cincinnati,” Mike replied.
“You lookin’ at East Clevey, man–this and a few other spots; we can roll around for a minute and then hit Cincy if you want. By the way, you Mike?”
“Trevor. And this dude is DiMaggio,” he said, unaware that Binky had already made the introduction. “These fools in the back don’t matter.”
They rode a few blocks around the Scovill area: Quincy to East 40, down to Woodland and back around. Along the way, Binky explained about the areas and pointed out where some of the best business was. He also talked about how they could expand. People watched them from the street, hanging outside their apartments and old homes. The ones Binky knew, he told Mike about.
“This area makes some pretty good stacks,” he said.
“Can we move to other areas?”
Binky shrugged. “I don’t see why not. But, the demand would go up. We already selling everything you send us, now.”
“Don’t worry: The supply is going up, too.”
Trevor and DiMaggio got nods from a lot of people they drove by. They were well known in both cities because they had been the men running back and forth between Cleveland and Cincinnati all the time. With Binky, they were Mike’s top guys out there.
When Mike asked how trustworthy they were, Binky said, “Don’t let their hard faces set you off, man. They just want to look hard in front of you. They got much respect for you. They say there ain’t many white boys that can do what you do. They be right, dog. You got some serious balls.”
They rode to Cincy and toured the Avondale neighborhood and Fay Apartments. Although he was a little disappointed that their territory was so limited, Mike was still pleased with the areas he saw. Up and down the streets of Avondale there was activity. Binky told him that hooking and traffic was heavy out there. He said a few hustlers tried to push back when they came in, but Trevor and the Clipper squashed that. Now, that was their neighborhood.
“I see streets full of hungry, unafraid people. What would it take to organize this place for war?”
Binky and Cliff looked at each other. “I could organize any of these places if you just put people on the payroll.”
“Do it,” Mike said. “Get as many good men you can find in both cities and organize them. I’ll need them to help my men in Flint move on Detroit when the time comes.”
“What’s going down in Motown?” Binky asked.
“We got some problems to erase before we can move our business forward.”
Binky asked no more questions.
Fay Apartments was a complex full of long, slender buildings with vinyl tops and bricked lower levels. Most of the grass was beaten and dead, matching some of the buildings. Not too many could be seen on the streets or sidewalks; there weren’t many cars parked around, neither.
“This place is silent. But, we push a lot of crack, here. There’s also some hardcore killing motherfuckers here, too, that DiMaggio is friends with. I know we can get them in the fight.”
Up by the management office, they parked near each other around back. Mike, Dante, Binky, and Cliff got out and stood beside the driver’s side of the other car. Like in the other cities, Mike started to explain what he needed to be done. Trevor said that he could have that place organized by the end of the week.
Mike looked at DiMaggio and said, “I hear you’re a real fucking killer.”
The Clipper nodded just once and eyed Mike impassively. Mike looked at Binky and said, “I love this guy, man. Keep an eye on him. He’s got a future with me.”
Binky smiled. “He’s an ice cold motherfucker, all right.”
“So, make us some money, fellas; and, get us an army. Right now, I can’t really tell you how big what I got is. It’s almost all in place. Like I said: We got a few obstacles to overcome, but once that’s done and this thing clicks, we’re gonna have some major shit in this country. The east will be ours.”
“Man, you ain’t got nothing to worry about,” Trevor assured. “You just tell Binky when and we’ll be ready.”
Mike stuck his hand out to Binky, who slapped it in return. “It’s cool, whiteboy. We got this.”
After making the pact, Mike and his team were ready to return to Louisville. It had been a long time on the road and home was only a couple of hours away. On the way back, Mike rode with Brent, Sandy, and Scott.
“You really started something here, Mike,” Brent said.
“I didn’t start it. It was already there; I just ran with it.”
“Still, you bringing it all together like it ain’t ever been brought before.”
“I never had any idea how big this thing was.”
Sandy chimed in. “You know, Mike, I was skeptical about all this years ago. All this shit worried me. But, I have to admit that I’m amazed at what you’ve done. This shit is really deep. I mean, you’re like a fucking Kingpin. How did this even happen?”
“Simple,” Scott chimed in. “Mike always knew when to move.”
Mike nodded. “I just saw chances to build and I took them. I never second-guessed or over-thought; I just saw opportunity and grabbed it. I just did what I thought was best. I mean, I got Ryan and Dante to thank for a lot of this–Mr. Luther, too. I can’t take all the credit.”
“Were you ever scared?” Scott asked.
Mike shook his head. “Why would I be? There’s nothing to be afraid of, only death and imprisonment. Death is inevitable. People spend too much time worrying about that when it’s something they’ll never be able to avoid. As far as fear for death, you might as well throw that shit out the window because death ain’t going nowhere. It’ll always be at your back. And imprisonment? Shit–that’s just free room and board. The real imprisonment’s out here, on the street, under the thumbs of tyrants. Who’s afraid of a little time spent behind the walls? Not me.”
In that moment, all three of them realized why Mike was who he was, why he was the one they all looked to. He believed in everything he did without pause. He was the one person just fearless enough to guide them. His conviction was steadfast and staunch. He did not consider himself a criminal, but just another businessman who operated outside the restraints put in place by people he just didn’t agree with. The difference between him and the average business owner was that his murder and pillage wasn’t protected by the law; all he could do was buy enough of those who enforced the laws to keep his work out of sight. His lobbying came at a cheaper price. His product just happened to lay in the wastelands of the corporate apocalypse, his clients in the shadows of the underworld. Mike was the king of the blight and the wind of the scourge across America.
“Home sweet home,” he said as he swept back into town.